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Sports

New York Jets Team Needs: Tight End

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New York Jets Team Needs: Tight End

2014-03-03 11:45:39

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Jeff Cumberland makes move after the catch against Atlanta. (Image Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. I myself don’t know any, but that idiom applies to New York’s aerial attack. There’s more than one way to address the team’s lack of pass catchers.

The most obvious path is to sign and draft wide receivers, but that’s not the only way second-year GM John Idzik can boost New York’s weapons in the passing game, as tight end should be very high on their list of team needs. In addition to having one of the weakest receiving corps in the NFL, their tight ends haven’t done enough to pick up the slack.

In his four seasons in the league, Jeff Cumberland has shown flashes but not enough to believe that he’s the answer as the fulltime tight end. He can be a playmaker with the ability to stretch the field and get into the end zone. Cumberland averaged 15.3 yards per catch in 2013 and 15 percent of his catches resulted in touchdowns, however he only caught 26 passes.

Staying healthy has also been an issue for the Illinois product. Cumberland really hasn’t proven he’s a legitimate starter and may instead be a very good number two.

At the right price, the Jets would like to keep Cumberland but that by no means should stop their search for a tight end, who can upgrade the position. Kellen Winslow (31 receptions, 388 yards, 12.5 YPC) wasn’t bad last season as a backup option, but with his baggage and age it would be a surprise if he were to return. It’s time the Jets find a long-term solution.

The Jets not only need a playmaking tight end who can strike some fear in opposing secondaries, but it’s been a while since they had a legitimate blocking tight end.

If they chose to address the position in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, then North Carolina product Eric Ebron would be the choice. He’s not a great blocker and remains a bit raw as a route runner, but has oodles of potential as a pass-catching playmaker.

At 6’4 3/8” and 250 pounds, Ebron has excellent length and his 4.60 40-yard dash was the second-fastest time among the tight ends at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has good hands, can stretch the field and make plays after the catch. Many scouts view Ebron as a Pro Bowler down the road and he compared himself to San Francisco’s Vernon Davis when he spoke to the media in Indianapolis.

On Day 2, the Jets could target Jace Amaro (Texas Tech), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington) or Troy Niklas (Notre Dame). They are all bigger than Ebron, in terms of height and length, but lack his elite athleticism. Amaro, who had small hands, ran a 4.74 40-yard dash, while Seferian-Jenkins and Niklas didn’t run in Indy.

At Tech, Amaro was basically a receiver and has limited experience lining up with his hand on the ground in the trenches. Jenkins has tremendous potential as a three-way tight end, but has some off-field baggage and couldn’t participate in the drills at the combine because of a pre-existing condition in his foot. Niklas is the biggest of the group at 270 pounds, but offers the least upside as a pass catcher.

Related Links:

New York Jets Team Needs: Quarterback

New York Jets Team Needs: Running Back

New York Jets Team Needs: Wide Receiver

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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